Aishwarya Ramesh

Surf Excel Pakistan's Ramadan spot takes idea of 'Neki' forward, in lockdown

The new spot pays tribute to frontline workers while carrying forward the 'stains are good' proposition that the brand is well known for.

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, strict social distancing norms are in place, all over the world; but that doesn't mean that the spirit of a festival can't be felt - claims Surf Excel Pakistan's new ad. The ad film's release has been timed for the month-long festival of Ramadan. 'Neki Nahi Rukegi' - claims the new spot, which roughly translates to 'the good deeds won't stop'.

Carlos Pereira, an adman who earlier worked with Lowe Lintas, is responsible for ideating and creating the ad. The thought behind the ad is to continue with the ‘dirt is good’ proposition, while making it relevant in current times. Pereira says that the intention was to be socially responsible in both execution and messaging, and deliver a message of hope to the people – to find ways to do good (things), despite the circumstances. The storyline features a doctor, a nurse, a policeman and an apartment (society) guard, all frontline workers who can be easily recognised. The script has been crafted keeping social distancing norms in mind.

Pereira has worked on Surf Excel’s Ramadan campaigns for the last four years, so, he’s aware of the ad’s tone and messaging. There was a local team from Pakistan who helped him get the nuances of the script right. The ad film was scripted keeping the present day situation in mind. The ad does not show too many people in one frame. The last scene also portrays a shot of a special ‘air handshake’ between the father and son – without making physical contact. The team had to be careful that the ad didn’t show social distancing norms being breached in any way, and still get ‘dirt’ into the storyline – which is an integral part of the ad campaign.

He admits that this is probably the most challenging script he's done in the last five years, because of the situation. Normally, the writers and the brand filmmakers would have had an open platform to shoot, execute the idea and bring it to life. However, there have been many restrictions on shooting at this point in time when the coronavirus pandemic is rapidly spreading.

Unilever's intention is not to hard didn’t want to use it as a way to hard sell the product. In that sense, we wanted to keep the product in the background and bring the message of doing good deeds to the forefront. Kids are sometimes the evangelists of good deeds and they have been the stars of Surf Excel's Ramadan ads in the past. Since 2016, Lowe Lintas has been handling the ads for Unilever Pakistan’s brand Surf Excel. In 2016, Arun Iyer’s team at Lowe Lintas created a Ramadan-themed ad film, which was produced by Absolute Productions and directed by filmmaker Vasan Bala. The ad crossed a million views on YouTube in less than a week.

In 2017, the same team came back to create another Ramadan campaign for the brand. We at afaqs! covered the campaign at the time of its release. Speaking about the challenges he faced, Iyer, chairman and chief creative officer, Lowe Lintas, says, "2016 was the first time we did the Ramadan ad campaign, so, there were no expectations then. This time around, there was pressure and a certain expectation because of the fact that it went viral. So, we decided to park all that pressure aside and thought... let's do justice to the festival and the brand, and the rest is something that is serendipity. If it happens, great, and if it doesn't then we can't do much about it."

Iyer added that the proposition of ‘Daag Acche Hain’ was a broad enough platform to allow them to assay ‘doing good for others’. “There is a cultural reality to Pakistan and to the festival and to what people think around the festival, and we had to keep all those things in mind,” he concluded.

In 2018, the agency went with the theme of unity within families on the occasion of Ramadan.

In 2019, the theme was family focussed again - emphasising on blessings for good health.

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